Posts Tagged ‘Lodz’

Vintage hat trick

Sunday, 19 September 2010

To the accompaniment of the Lodz MPK brass band, actor Marcel Szytenchelm relaunches the restored 1928 ‘Sanok’ tram at the former inter-urban tram station in Lodz on 31 July 2010. Video by brite77.

Yesterday was a good day; I had a phone call from Tomasz Adamkiewicz, would I like to go from a tram ride? You bet I would. Tomek owns a number of vintage tram cars which he has rescued and restored to their past glory. Which tram would he be showing off today? We arranged that I should join him at Radogoszcz, a location difficult to mistake – a tall memorial marks the spot where, in January 1945, the retreating Germans set fire to a factory building, burning alive some 2,000 prisoners.

I waited at the Radogoszcz tram stop. A selection of Lodz trams rattled past. There were plenty of modernized Konstal 805Nas, a couple of new PESA 122Ns and an ex Fryburgu Düwag GT8 running the Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa inter-urban service to Ozorkow. But none of these was Tomek’s tram. At last a green ancient four wheeler came into view, going like the blazes – the 1928 ‘Sanok’. Later Tomek was to admit that the only non authentic parts used in its restoration were its the motors. The original ‘Sanoks’ had a top speed of 35 km/h (22 mph). Tomek’s ‘hotted-up’ version is capable of 60 km/h (38 mph)!

Tomek found the Sanok in a garden in Wisniowa Gora near Lodz some 11 years ago. By then it had lost its chassis. He bought the body for 250 zloty. It cost him another 350 zloty to move it to the MPK tram depot at Helenowek, where he had be given permission to store the vehicle. Working as a MPK fitter during the day, he worked on his beloved Sanok at night, gradually collecting or making the missing parts.

The first part of our journey was on the route of the realaid LRT (Lodz ‘fast tram’) route running along reserved track alongside ul. Zgierska and then down the centre of ul Zachodnia. Then Tomek hopped out and changed the points at the 3-way junction with ul. Legionow. With a squeal of flanges we ran through the south-east curve at the junction and were running down the middle of a cobbled street. The ‘Sanok’ was in its natural element. Film makers looking for pre-war Polish street scenes need look no further.

We ran across ul. Wlokniarzy, under the viaduct carrying the Lodz Kaliska to Kutno railway line, and alongide the right-hand side of ul. Legionow down to Zdrowie. Here a single line of track carries on invitingly to the East – the Lodzkie Tramwaje Podmiejskie inter-urban line, but Tomek has had a row with the Tramwaje Podmiejskie over some vintage trams that the latter had sold and our ‘running rights’ did not include the track to Konstantynow and Lutomiersk. So Tomek got out again and changed the points to run down the short spur to the Zdrowie loop. We ran back to ul Legionow and here I made my farewells to Tomek and waited for my lift.

By curious coincidence my next journey, this time by car, took me on to Lutomiersk. Here I had come to view a brand new house built from logs! Such construction is actually cheaper and healthier than modern breeze block, cement and brick technology. It took the contractor some 2 months to precisely shape all the wooden logs. Amazingly the actually construction of the walls and roof on site only took three days.

While standing back from the house I saw a farmer driving a traditional horse and cart. Nothing unusual about that in Poland, you may say, but this cart was pulled by two horses. The three actors in yesterdays drama came from completely different backgrounds: Tomek the tram fitter, doing extra overtime to pay for the parts he needs to restore his collection of vintage trams; the couple of college lecturers who decided to build a wooden house, the young farmer who could afford a second-hand tractor, but prefers to employ horses. All of them are making a statement about preserving and celebrating all that was best from the past. There is hope for Poland yet.

Footnote

As part of Lodz’s celebration of Dni Publicznego Transportu (Public Transport Days) Tomasz Adamkiewicz’s vintage ‘Sanok’ is running a special ‘H1’ public service from 16 – 22 September. You can view the timetable details here and here.

Koluszki inspection

Monday, 25 May 2009

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Warsaw – Lodz railway modernisation
Stage 1 – Skierniewice Lodz

The railway line between Warsaw and Lodz is being modernized in stages. Stage 1, the rebuilding of the line between Skierniewice and Lodz Widzew, was started in July 2006 and completed on 16 June 2008. The cost of the project was 905,151,233 PLN, of which 678,863,425 PLN was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and 226,287,508 PLN by the Polish Government. At the time, the project was billed by PKP as the biggest infrastructure in Poland.

We took our Chief Engineer to Koluszki1 station, the site of a major junction on the line, and recorded his comments.

All photographs were taken on Sunday 24 May, 2009. Click twice on the pictures for a magnified view.

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The new platform for the Warsaw – Lodz services is on the left. Other trains use the older platform on the right.

The Lodz platform on the left seems OK, but read on. The platform on the right – rebuilt in the 1970s – has been resurfaced but not raised. The new platform awnings constructed on both platforms stop about a metre short of the platform edge and don’t reach as far as the subway or the ticket office.

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The view to Warsaw

The main line for Warsaw trains appears to be well laid out for 160 km/h running. But what is the lady with the shopping trolley doing on the staff crossing? And why is there no warning device which is activated when a train is about to cross.

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The view to Lodz

Once again, the lines for the Lodz services seems well laid out. The tracks to Tomaszow Mazowiecki and Piotrkow Trybunalski less well so.

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Wroclaw-bound train arrives at Koluszki

Let’s hope that the lady with the trolley is clear of the crossing. Clicking the picture for an enlarged view shows that one of the ‘main lines’ is in fact a badly aligned dead end and that Warsaw bound trains leaving the Lodz platform road have to negotiate a couple of crossovers to reach the running line.

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Weeds sprouting up in the newly laid sidings.

It would appear that the reused ballast has not been properly cleaned and screened.

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The white line is disintegrating.

The home-made concoction of cement and paint has not lasted one winter! The appropriate material for the job is thermoplastic paint.

Overall, this seems to have been a modernisation carried out on the cheap where a glossy appearance took precedence over functionality.

It would have been appropriate to conclude this article with a Google Maps view of Koluszki station, but unfortunately in the satellite photography purchased by Google, Koluszki station is under a cloud!

1 Pronounced “COLL-OO-SH-KI”.

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A Poland lost forever

Thursday, 9 April 2009

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Old Lodz Kaliska Railway  Station in the 1920s

One of our friends has sent us link to the www.wyburzone.pl website – a web catalogue of demolished Polish architecture. There are manor houses and palaces, factories and power stations, tram depots and railway stations. Well worth exploring!

Warsaw to Lodz faster in 1934!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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The PESA ‘Lodz tram’ at Warszawa Centralna.
Photo Monsieur Josviaque

(Click to see picture in original context.)

I’m not known for being excessively emotional, but the new PESA trains sets, that work between Lodz Fabryczna and Warszawa Centralna, have seriously ‘stroked my fur the wrong way’. I hate them with a cold fury that I’m sure is bad for my blood pressure and leave my friends shaking their heads in disbelief. I hate them because, in spite of their streamlined looks, they crawl along on the brand new, trillion PLN, railway between Skierniewice and Lodz Widzew at an average speed which is less than that achieved by the Great Western Railway’s Bristolian in 1935. I hate them because of the design of their reverse curved back-breaking seats, which no one in PKP has had the courage to rip out and replace with seating that is properly ergonomically engineered.

I get by by trying to ignore the existence of the ‘PESA trams’, preferring to travel between Lodz and Warsaw in one of the three real trains that travel between Lodz Kaliska and Centralna. My journey takes a little longer because the Kaliska trains take half an hour to wind round the broken track between Lodz Kaliska to Lodz Widzew, but the slightly faded ancient compartment stock, which goes to such distant places as Bydgoszcz or Szczecin, is infinitely more comfortable to the ‘trams’ with their cursed seats.

Sadly there is not always a real train alternative available and sometimes I do have to travel in the new train sets. Yesterday evening was one of those times when I found myself on board to the 19.20 ex Warszawa Centralna which was due into Lodz Fabryczna at 20:50, a journey time of 90 minutes. I made my way to one of folding seats near the high tech toilet. Undignified maybe, but at least the folding seats assume a normal back profile. As a result of customer complaints the rest of the seating had been ‘improved’ since my last journey. The seats, are not only the wrong shape to support a human back, they are also too small to fit the XXL standard Polish buttock. The ‘improvement’ consists of transplanting the old seats some 6 centimetres away from the sides of the train giving the passenger on the inside a little extra space. So now you can have your back broken while respecting your neighbour’s dignity.

The high tech train information boards – though more concerned with giving you information about whose namesday it is – occasionally flash up the train speed. Last time I travelled I noted a maximum speed of 137 km/hour (85 mph). This time the highest speed that we reached was 129 km/hour (80 mph). I challenged the guard about this and learned that Polish railway regulations prevent trains with a single driver in the cab from exceeding 130 km/hour. The PESA train sets are not designed for a ‘second man’ sitting next to the driver sharing his duties. I ruminated that after an expenditure of over a trillion zloty the train still did not complete the journey in the 80 minutes achieved by the in the Lux Torpeda in 1934, or even the 88 minutes achieved by the locomotive hauled Tellimena Express in the 1990s.

Dyspozytor

Looks nice, but…

Friday, 18 July 2008

Lodz Regional Tramway – two weeks to opening, BTWT

BTWT is an enthusiastic supporter of Light Rail and Semi-Metro solutions to the traffic problems of large cities. We thought that, once the inevitable teething troubles were over, we should try out the new Lodz Regional Tramway for ourselves. We took three rides, on a section of line between the centre of town and the northerly terminus of the service at Helenowek, in order to prepare this report.

These are the 10 criteria that we used to assess the new service. Each is scored on a range of 0-10. So the maximum possible score is 100.

  1. Description on the box
  2. Comfort and ergonomics
  3. Noise
  4. Staff
  5. Ride quality
  6. Stops
  7. Ticketing
  8. Aesthetics
  9. Disabled access
  10. Information

The LRT vision (Click for a bigger picture.)

2/10 Description on the box

It is branded as the ‘Lodz Regional Tramway’, but at present it runs only within the borders of Lodz between Helenowek and Chocianowice. There is no clear indication when stage 2, linking the outlying towns of Pabianice and Zgierz, will be implemented. Stage 3, upgrading the tramline to Ozorkow, has not reached the stage of a memorandum of understanding, while Alexandrow Lodzki, which generates a huge amount of commuter car traffic into Lodz and lost its tram service in 1995, is not even the subject of a feasibility study. The much heralded tram priority control of traffic lights has yet to be commissioned.

6/10 Comfort and ergonomics

The cars are air conditioned and more bearable in hot weather. The carpet covered plastic seats are less comfortable than those in the 805Na rebuilds, carried out in the municipal tramway ompany’s own workshops. When badly driven, the jerkiness of the ride makes the trams feel dangerous. The low floors do make it much easier to board and alight, particularly for the elderly and small children. (The very high communist-era floor is the main draw back of the modernised 805Na.)

7/10 Noise

External and internal noise is much reduced compared to standard Polish trams, but is still not at European best practice levels. In fact, the degree to which wheel on track noise can be heard inside the cars surprised us.

5/10 Staff

One of the drivers drove his tram like an extreme fairground ride – breathless acceleration and rapid stops. It was all we could do to stop falling off. The same driver, refused to let a passenger get on (even though the tram was stuck in a traffic jam) once he had closed the doors. Other drivers had no difficulty in using more gentle acceleration and deceleration techniques to a create a much more ‘family friendly’ experience.

7/10 Ride Quality

Much better than anything we have ever seen before in Lodz, but the track geometry in general, as well as the rail alignment at welded joints, leaves a lot to be desired.

6/10 Stops

The stops are too close together in the city centre for the trams to be able to operate at their design speed. But, given the added convenience, no marks were deducted for this. The raised platform levels assist boarding and alighting. New fencing prevents waiting passengers being pushed into busy traffic lanes. The stops only accommodate one tram at a time. With portions of the line also used by other Lodz services this results in the trams having to queue at tram stops! The miniature bus shelters are more a decoration than a serious attempt to protect passengers in bad weather. Alas, no thought has been given to bringing the trams closer to major traffic generators such as Manufactura or Custorama, leaving passengers to walk several hundred yards.

6/10 Ticketing

Ticketing is still stuck in the ‘buy a bit of paper in the kiosk’ era. You pay for time on board the tram, not for distance travelled. This is not good news when your tram is stuck in one of Lodz’s increasingly frequent traffic jams. Given the electronics employed elsewhere, this would have been a golden opportunity to automate and improve revenue collection.

10/10 Aesthetics

The PESA 122Ns look smashing, pity about the seats, but we have already dealt with the latter!

1/10 Disabled access

The height of the platforms at stops and the floor height of the trams have not been equalised. The service has not been designed for unaccompanied wheelchair users. Polish transport bosses really need to get their act together on this.

8/10 Information

The automatic voice recordings and LCD displays announcing the next stop are useful. But London Underground style individual route schematics in the cars and maps of the whole system at the stops would be very helpful.

58/100 Overall score

Not trying hard enough. Could do much better!